Facts Won’t Change Your Life
We live in a world of facts:
• An average strawberry has 5 calories.
• Albuquerque is the capital of New Mexico.
• An average runner burns 100 calories per mile.
But while facts are interesting, fascinating, and useful, facts don’t change our lives.
Now before you start objecting using examples like ancient flat world and earth centric beliefs, hear me out. While facts or knowledge have historically changed the way we think, it was our practice based on those facts that changed the way we live.
Take for example Christopher Columbus; by the time that Columbus sailed to the West Indies, most of the world knew the earth was round. But knowing it was round and sailing to see what was out there are two totally different things. While this fact was important and made Columbus’ voyage possible, it wasn’t until he actually took that knowledge and tested it that the world was forever changed.
What’s even more amazing is that this idea doesn’t just apply to big ideas like a round earth, but to the small facts that we take for granted everyday.
From Big Facts to Life
For years I ‘knew’ that cigarettes were bad for me and that I had a problem dealing with my life. I knew I needed to quit smoking, take responsibility, and get more organized. But I couldn’t because while I knew the facts, I wasn’t willing to engage with them.
But when I went to the monastery, something changed. No longer did I just understand these facts in theory. I understood them in practice. I knew what it was like to fight a craving. I knew what it was like to deal with embarrassment. And I knew what it meant to face my mind deeply and personally.
What changed was that I stopped learning about what I needed to do and I started doing it. I stopped trying to understand what to do and just did the best I could. And while it wasn’t always pretty, this process saved my life in more ways than one.
Here’s how to get started:
Stop Reading, Start Doing
The first thing most people do when realize the need to find balance and space is get a book. Now don’t get me wrong I think reading is amazing and essential for making life changes. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be writing this blog. But the mistake people make is that they read lots of books, blogs, and articles, without ever actually doing anything.
Knowledge is great, but it’s worth only a fraction of what experience is worth. That’s one of the reasons I work so hard to make my posts and books actionable. While I believe in the concepts I write about, they only become real when you practice with them. If you get nothing else from reading this post, remember read then practice before reading more.
Try, Screw Up, Adapt, Repeat
One thing that makes facts appealing is that they are relatively easy to obtain. Once you read it and understand it, you ‘own’ it forever. But wisdom requires more than just comprehension, it requires failure and adaptation.
When we begin to practice with ideas we soon discover that our models don’t perfectly apply. The world is filled with subtleties and challenges that no system can completely account for. So we have to learn through trial and error when to use this tool and when to improvise. And while having a decent foundation can help, it’s only by trying things out and being willing to fail that we truly grow.
I would encourage you to do one thing every week that has the chance of failure. Send in a submission to the New Yorker, apply for a job above your pay grade, attempt to write a brilliant Haiku, or try to do ten strict pull-ups. Even though you are likely to fail, you can learn a lot from the experience of trying.
Observe, Observe, Observe
The biggest mistake I see people make again and again as they try to change their lives is that they fail to observe. They don’t track what they eat, they don’t record their workouts, they don’t set down to do items, and they don’t review their progress.
More than anything else observation can give you huge amounts of data about how your ideas and intentions are working in the world. The simplest way to start observing yourself is to create a daily journal. You could try a one-sentence journal, a Mind Fit Food Thanks journal, or another one you come up with yourself. The format doesn’t matter as much as the practice.
If you don’t already have a daily reflective practice, please don’t forget my first tip. Don’t just read about how great keeping a journal is, actually start one. You don’t have to do it for a month, just try it for a week, and see what you learn.
Proving the World Is Round
You already have everything you need to live the life you were meant to live. The only thing standing in your way is your willingness to step forward and prove it to yourself. Please take this post as a chance to take one small step today towards making this simple idea into a lasting reality.